Three things to remember when driving a soft-top Audi

Image from

Image from

It is the first time I have had to drive my husband’s soft top jewel-green Audi.

He hovered round the ironing board as I ironed the children’s clothes for the day. I wore a frown. It was to be a day of thorny meetings and tetchy negotiations, and I think my unconscious addmitted what my conscious wouldn’t.

The shirt I was ironing, I realised half way though, was dirty. Maddie had put it on the wrong pile. I can’t blame her: the clothes piles in this house have attained epic proportions. I glared at it, and bowled it overarm towatds the washing pile in disgust.

Oh, yes, there was my husband standing by the ironing board.

“A few things about the car,” he ventured.

Moody silence from spouse weilding iron.

Phil chose gamely to continue. “Two things you have to remember. And this is important, so you HAVE to listen.”

He has become familar over our 20 years with that look of stormy focus. He knows it means the internal circuits are all absorbed working on a problem. The chances of my attending to anything outside my head, other than the ironing, were slim to none.

But this car is his baby. And if I didn’t listen, the chances are I would engineer a more intimate relationship between it and another car than anyone would feel comfortable with. He persevered.: “This car has gears. It is not an automatic. This is key to how you drive it. Please remember that my car has gears.”

I growl-repeated: “Your car has gears”.

“Secondly: the brakes on my car are nowhere near as fierce as the brakes on your car. You need to apply them more to get the same effect.”

I nodded curtly. The second shirt was looking much more hopeful. Steam hissed. I schemed, deep ย amongst the lower echelons of my consciousness.

But I did remember the conversation as I took the keys and opened the car, much, much later when it was time to go and collect Maddie from the station.

Mainly because of a third thing Phil did not tell me.

The gear stick appeared to be on upside down.

The reverse was pointing upwards, and first gear down and to the left. It was a test in mental agility, a baffling conundrum. And interestingly, it is not the first time my gearstick has been on upside down.

No: once upon a time a home mechanic collected my car and delivered it back with a perfectly functioning gearbox, fitted so that one had to go into fifth gear to start, and reverse to speed at 90mph.

On that car the whole box had been skew-whiff: but today, after some extremely ginger experimentation, it became evident that it was just that the little plastic gears sign – ย the one like this –

Image from

Image from

-that had moved round 180 degrees.

I was comfortable with it all as I drove out of my road. After all these years of driving, that little gear map is etched ย upon my brain. But then, at the first major roundabout I looked down. And realised with a kind of fascinated wonder that it had righted itself. It had happily vibrated 180 degrees to tell me accurately where first gear really is.


It was a hairy journey because my unconscious had not entirely dispensed with the day’s business and I went on auto pilot, surfacing to correct the kangaroo jumps every now and then.

It was a grateful me who got out and hung up the keys, before commandeering my bicycle and heading off to the shops to fill up the paniers.


21 thoughts on “Three things to remember when driving a soft-top Audi

  1. Oh dear…as literal as I tend to be when signage is involved, I’d probably have been afraid to drive at all. Good for you for just following the little pattern by memory and making it happen. Ironing school uniforms–one thing I don’t miss. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. lol, I hate things that mislead the innocent.

    having driven a normal h-box shift, a column-mounted ger lever, a straight-line (up for lower gear, down for a higher gear) tiptronic and an automatic, there isn’t really a mode that is completely natural for me any more. I do have to rely on the signs.

    and to make matters worse, there are some that expect you to push down, or pull up the gear to achieve reverse.

      1. I think learners should start in an automaticm just to understand speed, steering etc, then ROGRESS to manual, to learn why the automatic changes when it does

  3. With our cars, we change from automatic to manual and from left to right hand drive. As both cars are broken they have just become covered armchairs on wheels. That’s an unusual number plate on the Audi.

  4. My car’s reverse gear is press down and shift up to the left, my husband’s is press down and shift down to the right. I often find myself going the wrong way!

  5. I have had many manual transmissions in my foray into the world of cars, way too many cars that I can’t even remember all of them. The easiest to do is the old VW Bug, in fact, so easy to shift it seemed like the gear shift would break with any undue pressure, Have also had the kind that one has to push down in one direction or another to get the reverse. I think it is always a bit disconcerting to jump from one car to another when manual gears are involved, we want our driving to be non-thinking as much as possible and those pesky gears force us to concentrate and upset our carefree day.
    By the way, kudus to you for keeping the iron under control whilst Phil was providing instructions.

  6. The self-propelled gear shift that rights itself just in time -what more could you ask for, Kate? It’s been so long since I’ve driven a stick shift, I wonder if I still could manage. Tom would be taking the same stance as Phil did, whilst I would be ironing with the same concentration to the day ahead as you.

  7. I had a similar problem when I tried to drive on the other side of the car. I kept turning on the wipers instead of the signal. You did much better than I.

  8. *look of great intelligence* So the soft top had something to do with the automatic rotation of signage?
    You actually look at those things? I put the car in gear and if it moves the wrong way I try another. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Oh yes! Kate. Special effects cars are like central heating boilers in a newly aquired house. There are hours of agony in finding out what the special effects are. Well done you for sussing out the gears.
    Mum sends her love to you as well. xxxxxxxx
    Love Dad

  10. I swapped a Hyundai Getz for a Volkswagen Polo this week, and realised that they have just moved the left hand drive steering to the right to suit our roads, without mirroring it. So I have been flicking the wiper switch for the indicator and vice versa!! And reverse is depress and up to first position!! To say I had near misses on my way back from yoga class yesterday would be an understatement ๐Ÿ™‚
    I never touch R’s car ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Oh you brave, brave girl, couldn’t you have put Maddie on the bicycle carrier, surely that would have been safer than trying to rearrange your brain MID journey! What a gorgeous car, terrifying! I love how you iron, i think that is just perfectly lovely and I just read over at Chris’s that you fold beautifully too. I am deeply impressed.. c

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